rockinhamburger: (Blaaaaaine)
I am so lucky.

I really have some amazing friends in the Glee fandom, and by god if I don't feel part of a giant family. Which is interesting, because sometimes families fight (that was some epic fighting last night over the leak of the c-sides from the Struck By Lightning script), but most of the time we're true friends to each other; we build each other up, create inside jokes and laugh ourselves hoarse. We welcome new family members and support them, too. We meet up in 'real life'. We enjoy each other's company, and we do all of this because of one specific shared interest. For us, it's Glee, but it could be anything. I've participated in the Harry Potter, Psych, Star Trek XI, and American Idol fandoms. And those are just the ones I participated in; I've lurked in about a dozen more, wishing I could jump in and join the fun but feeling out of my depths.

But please don't think I'm exaggerating at all when I say that this fandom, while also the wankiest apart from HP, has been the most amazing fandom experience of my ten years online. I'm not just saying that, I am truly excited every day to log on and see what my online family is up to. I'm excited to read your fics, bookmark and drool over your artwork, watch your fanvids, look at your icons and graphics, and to squeal excitedly over every piece of Glee news with you that we can get our hands on. I love that we snark about the show's epic fails and then write satirical, thoughtful comments and essays, and I love that we can just collectively love these adorable boys who love each other and are not real but inspire us all the same.

And I just woke up, so I apologize if none of this makes sense. I'm also really shakily emotional as well, because I've been getting comments to the Synchronization companion fic I posted at k_b yesterday. And these are not just any comments, but truly heartwarming ones that make me feel like a capable writer. You'll know, if you're a writer yourself, how important validation can be. I think we like to pretend that we don't post our fics and then nervously check our inboxes when we have a chance, sitting in front of our computers with our breath held tight as the 'Reply to your entry...' email loads, and then squealing over every one. I think we like to pretend we don't require validation, but the truth is we do. Or maybe that's just me. Maybe I'm the only one who feels self-conscious about my writing and proceeds to feel held up when people actually enjoy it.

It's funny. I was fifteen when I first started posting my fanfiction in the Harry Potter fandom. My fics were hosted at FF.Net, and I wrote Harry/Draco fanfiction for the most part and some gen pieces that were a little odd. But I had a small, generous group of people who read my fics and commented regularly, and to this day there are still people who favourite my stories. Which is beyond me, as they're pretty terrible. I still have access to those fics (but you don't, ha!), so I occasionally go back and peruse them to laugh hysterically at my horrible writing. I'm being an asshole to myself when I say that, though, because I genuinely felt then like I do now about it. I smiled over every comment I got, I boggled when someone said that my story was one of their favourites. I was shocked, but mostly it made me want to write more.

When I was in the Psych fandom (for the very funny television show; check it out), I wrote an eighteen-thousand word mystery-slash-love-story. I worked on it for about four-five months (nowadays it only takes a few weeks to write that much :D), agonizing all the while over small details and trying to craft this story I cared about immensely. And when I was nearing the end of the writing process, I told a real-life friend of mine about it, and I'll never forget what she said to me. She said, "Is this a big fandom you're writing for?" I told her no, that it was pretty small in terms of, like, Harry Potter or bandom. And then she said, "Well, how many people are going to read this story you're writing? How many people are actually going to read this story you've put so much time into?" I told her that it didn't really matter because I just had to get the story out of me. I told her I didn't care who read it because the point was that this story had grabbed me and made me write it. I told myself that I didn't need validation because that's not what writing is about.

But then I finished editing it and posted it online. And then I checked my inbox for comments, and in the end I got about... ten, I think? And this was a small fandom, but not that small.

And I won't lie, it was a really shitty feeling. My friend's words came back to me. "How many people are going to read this story you're writing?" In other words, "How many people even give a shit?" And I realized that I do need and want validation, and that's not a failing. Hell, writing is about sharing it with other people. It's about getting inside a person's head and making them think. It's about agonizing over a scene with trembling hands, trying to translate the images in your head to the paper or computer in front of you. It's about getting your reader to stop, just for a second, and question. And that means you're not just writing for yourself. You're writing for other people all the time, and validation is part of that. You want people to feel all that, to think about it, and then like that experience. You're giving your work up for a new interpretation, and that is terrifying. So of course we wait for the reaction with bated breath. This is our soul we're sharing (even with the silliest of pieces). We want our time and effort and work to be validated.

The reason I'm saying all this is that I've been writing... pretty much since I was able. One of the first stories I wrote was a murder mystery about a serial killer. I was 7. How weird and fucked-up is that? Anyway, I've been writing for a long time. And at first I didn't care what people thought of my writing, because I was a kid and I was just writing for myself and for the purposes of getting the (weird, fucked-up) story down. Then school started, and I loved writing so I did it all the time, even when I was supposed to be doing something else.

I can't tell you how and when the insecurity started up. I have no idea when I started doubting my abilities, but all of a sudden everything I wrote was crap. It sounded stupid and young and trite and boring, and why was I doing something I sucked so much at?

Honest to Grilled Cheesus, I cried this morning when I opened my inbox and saw the comments I'd gotten I'm trying not to sob right now, because I've received some seriously amazing comments on my latest story, and I'm just realizing again how much this fandom and all of you who read my fics whenever I post them and speak kindly of the words I string together, how much you all mean to me. Those of you who build me up have not only helped me improve my writing, but have in small increments made me feel less incapable. But more than that, you've helped me to see that I'm not writing crap, that my words are something people actually want to read; or even that my stories are anticipated. And that is just so valuable. I do need validation, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. But I'm starting to feel like I deserve those nice comments. I'm starting to feel like I deserve you as my friends, and that is just something I am so fucking grateful for.

So, thank you. Truly. I never know who reads this journal, but if you're one of the people I'm talking about, who encourage and support me, thank you. My feelings for you are not fake just because we haven't met in 'real life'. You are true friends. And from the bottom of my heart, thank you for being my friend, for reading my words, and for making me feel like they're important.

I can't tell you how invaluable you are to me.

rockinhamburger: (Oh Kurt!)
My thoughts on Glee's Prom Queen.

Spoilers, obvs! )
rockinhamburger: (Default)
Lady Gaga just released her newest single, Judas, on Friday. Because of its obvious ties to the infamous story from the Bible, Christian groups have been attacking the song.

First, I want to talk a little bit about the way Christian groups (especially the Vatican) tend to attack artists in popular culture, usually in a transparently defensive manner, for exploring religious themes in their artistry. This is nothing new; Madonna was constantly being challenged by Christian groups, and the Catholic Church in particular, for daring to explore spirituality in her music. And for as long as I've been aware of this trend, even peripherally, I have been really perplexed by it.

Religion is arguably the most controversial and personal subject known to humankind. With it being the starting point of so much societal conflict, broaching the topic of religion in conversation is touchy. What do people say you should avoid talking about at social events? Religion and politics. Why politics? Well, probably because a lot of the potential for conflict within that subject of discussion is rooted in personal religious belief. And we avoid talking about religion at dinner parties because holy shit that is just a bad, bad idea.

Which doesn't mean people don't do it anyway. But rarely does it end well.

I remember when I was twelve I had this one friend who was a self-proclaimed atheist. My parents raised me from a very liberal standpoint, but they did bring me to church, where I learned Christian morals and teachings. My friend and I were both operating from our own parents' respective examples, but I can remember us standing underneath our favourite tree in this forest between our houses and fighting over religion until we were both screaming at each other and making no sense whatsoever. Being asked why you believe something, especially when you have no answer except the honest because my parents do, can be really fucking trying. You're trying to defend your beliefs, your specific point of view, and it feels personal because you can't provide irrefutable proof that your ideas of how the world works are the correct ones. You only have your own experience to go off of, and that is exceptionally personal. It's the definition of personal.

If that conflict between my friend and I has taught me anything it's that it's best to avoid the subject in conversation altogether because it generally only leads to disagreement. No one's going to win that argument because there's no way to win it.

Having said that, I think it's important that every person feel free to explore spirituality in a genuine way. When Madonna released the music video for Like A Prayer, it was so controversial that religious groups actually tried to ban it, to censor Madonna's artistry. But that's not even the most concerning part of that whole mess. They weren't just trying to censor or ban her music video; they were trying to silence and suppress her exploration of spirituality. And that, to me, is far more important and dangerous.

Lady Gaga is absolutely exploring religion and spirituality in Judas. I think it would be ridiculous, though, to assume she's trying to be controversial and blasphemous with this song, just as it would be stupid to assume that about Like A Prayer. Go watch Like A Prayer right now, and I dare you not to feel amazed by it even now, decades later. Gaga's got a very clear goal in mind. Is this a song that should be taken at face value and dismissed as an attack on the Christian religion, or should we actually dig a little deeper and try to confront notions of what's acceptable and what's taboo within not only pop culture but also society as a whole.

I think ultimately Judas is a song about love breaking down; whether that love is between human beings, or between a individual and the church, is probably up for interpretation. I think there's a lot more going on in this song than many people are willing to give it credit for.

For a long time, there was a Christian movement to ban Harry Potter books for their supposed depiction of witchcraft. When I was sixteen, I went to a youth service where this priest gave a sermon on the dangers of Harry Potter. Her claim was that the distinction between good and evil was not clear enough in the books, and that right there showed she had obviously never fucking read them. I remember rolling my eyes and sighing heavily the whole way through, completely flabbergasted and irritated that this woman could claim that Harry Potter was such a terrible influence on Christians while obviously never having read the books herself. Because if she had read them, she would have seen for herself just how spiritual they actually are. That series is, without a doubt, JK Rowling's attempt to make sense of death, exploring the concept of life after death and ultimately arriving at the beautiful message that love literally conquers all. And if that's not the inherent, most important message in Christianity, then I don't know what is. I's clearly why the Vatican, which previously stated that the Harry Potter book were supportive of the Occult, recanted their original stance. You just can't read Deathly Hallows and not notice the allusions to another very popular story about life, death and resurrection.

It just goes to show that it's never wise to criticize something without giving it the genuine thought and reflection it deserves. You could wind up looking like a fucking moronic, wishy-washy, uninformed and unread source on any subject, but most especially spirituality and pop culture.

Anyway, I'll be interested in seeing what Gaga does with the music video. Not so interested in witnessing the inevitable idiotic response from religious groups, though.
rockinhamburger: (Gorgeous Gaga)
For her Rolling Stone interview, Katy Perry had some more to say about Lady Gaga's 'Alejandro' video, and she runs her mouth off about some other stuff, too. Here are some of my favourite bits:

Also: some of my rambly responses to them... )
rockinhamburger: (Rachel Maddow)
I used to visit my granny every Sunday afternoon when I was a child. She would sit me down with various craft supplies, and my favourite thing to make was the cardboard guitar (this was long before my days of actual guitar playing, but clearly I was a musician at heart from a young age!). Did you ever make one of those? You know, with an empty tissue box? You rip off the plastic around the opening, then you cut a hole in one end and stick an empty paper towel roll in it, and then you stretch elastic bands around the tissue box so that they're stretched over the opening, and VOILA! You have your very own guitar that makes wonderful, elastic-y music.

I also remember making cardboard dioramas. Remember those?? I'd make an ocean floor, with fish hanging from the top, a big treasure chest on the bottom, and flashy blue paper as a backdrop.

I was a crafty child. Maybe you were too?

Kids still make crafts today, but I've noticed a slight shift in what exactly kids are crafting.

My best friend's mom is a nanny for these two adorable girls. They're 7 and 9 years-old. They listen to the Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus. That's okay! When I was their age, I was listening to the Spice Girls and the Backstreet Boys (and The Beatles and Chris de Burgh and Queen and R.E.M, but I digress)!

But craft-wise? These girls aren't crafting ocean floors and hand-made guitars, they're making cardboard cell-phones and laptops. And don't they have toy cell-phones now, with candy inside? I know they have toy laptops and iPods available for purchase as well. You know, to help get these kids tech-obsessed early on.

Isn't that a little sad? That children want computers and cell-phones when they're 7 and 9? It starts early, man. Kids are becoming as dependent on, obsessed with, and addicted to technology and efficiency as we adults are, and they believe, because they're taught (not necessarily consciously) that indulging in these luxuries is adult, mature, grown-up.

I do realize this is an inevitable, inescapable consequence of innovation, industrialization, and progress. It is becoming increasingly regular and perhaps even necessary for teenagers to own laptops and cell-phones. I'm sure, from a teacher's perspective, computers and laptops make teaching a breeze, but I'm not sure I agree with the concept that teaching should be easy; it's damn hard, and I rather think it should be! Learning isn't easy; why should teaching be? You know, fifteen years ago I was learning how to write in cursive. I was writing short stories and essays on loose-leaf sheets of paper with pens and pencils. Or I was playing outside with my sister, visiting friends and using our imaginations.

What are many kids doing these days? When they're not in school or doing homework, they're playing video games, watching television, and surfing the internet. Maybe they go outside occasionally, but a lot of these kids much prefer to be inside, escaping into virtual, fictional worlds of whimsy. I love kids, I babysit a lot; this is something I've noticed, and I'm not sure it's entirely healthy, even if it is unavoidable and no doubt irreversible.

I'm not saying technological advancement is evil. I just think it's little bit sad and scary that this outlook and behaviour has become the norm. I'm also not saying technology is ruining our children. I definitely don't believe that. My sister and I had a television in our room for all of our childhood and adolescence, and we were perfectly capable of turning off the television, and you know what? We did! We went outside and played tag, or we went for a long walk, or we created imaginary worlds with our toys. My friends and I played role-playing games in the schoolyard, where we were animals or hybrid animal-superheroes. We were not enslaved by technology, and I don't think kids are today. But I have noticed this intriguing, somewhat sad, growing trend, and I do think this is something worth thinking - and maybe even talking with kids - about.

What do you think?

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April 2012

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